Transgender activist and Kentucky state senator’s son dies by suicide at 24
The son of Louisville Democratic state Sen. Karen Berg has died by suicide at age 24.
In an emailed statement, Berg said her son, Henry Berg-Brousseau, a transgender activist for LGBTQ rights, died by suicide last Friday morning.
“Henry spent his life working to extend grace, compassion and understanding to everyone, but especially to the vulnerable and marginalized. This grace, compassion and understanding was not always returned to him,” the statement reads.
“As the mother of a transgender son, I gave my whole heart trying to protect my child from a world w[h]ere some people and especially some politicians intentionally continued to believe that marginalizing my child was OK simply because of who he was.
“This lack of acceptance took a toll on Henry. He long struggled with mental illness, not because he was trans but born from his difficulty finding acceptance.”
According to his obituary, Berg-Brousseau began his career in activism as a student at the Louisville Collegiate School. In 2015, a 16-year-old Berg-Brousseau went to the Kentucky State Capitol to speak out during a committee meeting against a bill that would have prevented transgender students from using bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender.
He told the senators who brought the bill he didn’t think they were bad people, and he wanted to educate them.
“If you don’t know a transgender kid already, you do now. You know me, Henry. And I’d be honored to continue to work with you and help educate you on all trans issues. I’d be even more honored to call you all friends,” he told senators.
The Senate passed the 2015 measure, but it died in the Democrat-controlled House.
Similar legislation has been prefiled ahead of the 2023 legislative session by Republican Rep. Bill Wesley of Ravenna.
Berg-Brousseau went on to attend George Washington University, where he double-majored in political science and history, with a minor in Jewish studies.
“He will be remembered for his drive to make this world a more accepting place, his ambition to use communications and politics as a force for positive change, and his eagerness to make everyone around him feel loved,” his obituary reads.
He was recently promoted in his job with the Human Rights Campaign, according to his mother.
Berg-Brousseau’s mother, Sen. Berg, fought against legislation targeting transgender youth earlier this year. In February, she gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging lawmakers not to pass a law that prevents transgender middle and high school school students from joining sports teams that match their gender identity.
"I cannot tell you how hurtful it is for a parent to see your child suffering from ignorance, from people who don't know and from people who honestly don't care,” Berg said at the time.
"I cannot tell you how hurtful it is for a parent to see your child suffering from ignorance, from people who don't know and from people who honestly don't care."— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 22, 2022
A Kentucky legislator and parent of a trans son spoke out against a bill that would exclude trans kids from sports. pic.twitter.com/7NSn79bOP3
She warned lawmakers that the bill they passed and similar anti-trans legislation could put transgender youth at greater risk of suicide.
She had a similar warning in her statement Tuesday announcing her son’s death.
“On a daily basis at his job Henry would be aware of the hateful and vile anti-trans messaging being circulated around this country and focused at his workplace. This hate building across the country weighed on him. In one of our last conversations he wondered if he was safe walking down the street,” Berg wrote.
“The vitriol against trans people is not happening in a vacuum. It is not just a way of scoring political points by exacerbating the culture wars. It has real-world implications for how transgender people view their place in the world and how they are treated as they just try to live their lives.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/
You can also contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.